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alaska 2015

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Alaska Travel Diary: Denali

Travel

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This is it, folks – my final Alaska post!

After 7 amazing days at sea, it was time to disembark in Seward and work our way on up to Anchorage for the last leg of our trip. Rather than head directly to Anchorage from the cruiseport, we arranged an all-day tour to get in some additional sightseeing along the way. This worked out perfectly, and our guide was waiting for us right inside the terminal when we arrived.

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After a brief tour of Seward, we were on our way for a hike up to Exit Glacier. The hike itself was pretty easy, but the pouring rain made things a little interesting to say the least. By the time we made our way back down, I was extremely grateful for my rain jacket and bean boots!

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After leaving Exit Glacier, we were off to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center to get up close and personal with all types of wildlife, including bear, moose, caribou, and bison. Next up was a lunch stop at Alyeska Mountain. We took the tram up to the top of the mountain, but unfortunately we missed out on any glacier views because of thick fog. Luckily, there was a Blueberry Festival going on which more than made up for it!

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Cruising Glacier Bay - Holland America Oosterdam
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Postcards from Alaska: Cruising Glacier Bay

Travel

Cruising Glacier Bay - Holland America Oosterdam

After 3 amazing port days in Alaska, Eric and I were pretty much in heaven and didn’t think that things could get much better. At this point we’d gone crab fishing and whale-watching, taken a helicopter to go dog-sledding on top of a glacier, eaten the most amazing seafood, and trekked through the Yukon Territory. By anyone’s standards, we’d had an amazing journey. But as it turned out, we hadn’t seen anything yet!

The last leg of our cruise included scenic sailing through Glacier Bay National Park. Believe me when I tell you how absolutely stunning and awe-inspiring it was to sail through this natural wonder. The day was picture perfect, and we got a front row seat as we watched these beautiful glaciers groan, shake, and eventually break off into the water right before our eyes (a process known as calving).

Cruising Glacier Bay - Holland America Oosterdam

Rangers from Glacier Bay boarded our ship that morning to debrief everyone on board about what we were going to see, and they remained with us the entire day to narrate our journey through the park.  It was so much fun to roam around the ship the entire day (in between hot cocoa and soup breaks) to take in the breathtaking views all around us. If you ever take an Alaskan Cruise, definitely make sure you pack the right gear for glacier-cruising days (i.e. a warm jacket, hat, and gloves). It gets COLD out there!

Unfortunately, I saw waaaayyyy too many people who couldn’t take the chill and had to keep running back indoors because they didn’t have on the right gear. You can never predict when glaciers are going to calve, so it’s best to stay outside all day to maximize your chances. We sprung for a room with a balcony (which we thoroughly enjoyed!), but I preferred to walk about the ship while sailing through Glacier Bay to make sure we always had the best view.

Speaking of views… keep scrolling through to soak up the sights we saw that day!

Juneau - Dogsledding on Herbert Glacier
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Alaska Travel Diary: Juneau

Travel

Juneau Cruise Port{Ralph Lauren Packable Down Jacket, North Face Fleece, Uniqlo Airism Tee & Leggings, L.L. Bean Boots}

We had so much fun in Ketchikan that I thought it would be hard to top, but Juneau turned out to be our favorite port of the entire cruise! We had an absolutely unbelievable jam-packed adventure that day that still manages to bring a big ol’ smile to my face everytime I think about it. One item I was really grateful for purchasing before this trip was my packable down jacket. It folds up into a small little pouch but still kept me warm and cozy. It was almost 70 degrees in Juneau that day, so I wound up taking it off almost immediately after taking this picture. But it wound up coming in handy later on that day as you’ll soon find out…

Juneau - Roberts Tramway

The first thing we did after leaving the ship was hop onto the Roberts Tramway to soar 1800 feet up the side of Mount Roberts. The ride lasted a few minutes and gave us glorious views of Juneau and the Gastineau Channel below.

Juneau - Mount Roberts

Once we made it to the top, we took a short hike through the rain forest and into a sub-alpine meadow. Some folks ahead of us double-backed and warned us about a black bear on the trail up ahead! So we used that as our cue to turn back and start heading for the nature center we passed on the way up.

Juneau - Mount Roberts Eagle's Nest

And of course neither of us could resist climbing into a life-size replica of an eagle’s nest. I had no idea that they can reach almost a ton in weight! After taking the tram back down to city level, we were off onto our next adventure…

Juneau - Herbert Glacier

A helicopter ride to the top of Hubbard Glacier followed by a ride on a dog sled!

I told you guys my down jacket would come in handy later! This is another one of those excursions that I debated endlessly before finally going for it. I’m not gonna lie… I got a terrible case of sticker shock when I first looked into this tour. But looking back, I’m 100% happy that we did this. In fact, I would do it all over again if I ever went back to Alaska. There are several booking options in Juneau, but I found the best deal through this one. If you’re doing an Alaskan cruise on a budget, I’d even go so far as to recommend cutting out other excursions and just doing this one. It’s that good. Everything was so quiet, pristine and stunningly beautiful when we landed that it felt like we were transported to another world.

Juneau - Dogsledding on Herbert Glacier

And let me tell you about those wonderful huskies! I’m a cat-person, through and through, but these huskies absolutely stole my heart. They were a little sleepy when we first arrived, but they were wide awake and ready to take off once we got underway. Each dog has a very distinct personality that shines through on the trail, and we got to spend time with each of them and learn all their little quirks.

Juneau - Dogsledding on Herbert Glacier

Man, I still can’t get over that view. It was so surreal in person!

Juneau - Dogsledding on Herbert Glacier

There were three of us to a sled, plus our guide. We each had the opportunity stand up and ride on the back of the sled as well.

Juneau - Dogsledding on Herbert Glacier

After spending about 30 minutes on the trail, we made it back to musher’s camp where we got to play with puppies! These newbies were only a few weeks old and didn’t even have names yet. I may or may not have tried to place one in my backpack to take home…

Juneau - Tracy's Crab Shack

After reaching land again, we were famished. So we headed back to port to grab a bite at Tracy’s King Crab Shack. These seriously may have been the best king crab legs I’ve ever tasted. Everything was so fresh and delicious. I also got a cup of crab bisque that was rich and full of flavor and came with an amazing hot buttered roll. My husband also raved about the fried shrimp. We had a long port day in Juneau and still had a few hours to kill, so we tacked on one last excursion at the last minute…

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Whale-watching!

We got incredibly lucky and happened upon a mama humpback whale and her pup during our tour. They  were having a grand old time playing and splashing in the water. They put on quite the show for us and breached several times while we looked on. After that we also chased a school of porpoises for a while. If I thought eagles were tough to capture on film, then porpoises were in a whole other category!

Juneau - Seals

Luckily, these seals were a little more camera-friendly!

All-in-all, our time in Juneau was a top-notch experience. Later on that evening, we made our way back to the ship exhausted but extremely content and ready to take on the next day’s adventure in Skagway. Stay tuned for tales of that journey coming your way.

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